How I spent my first training in Korea.

Those who know me in the real world probably know how I feel about being condescended to — namely, how I really, viscerally hate it more than anything. Being talked down to, especially in a realm where I consider myself moderately competent, makes me mad. It makes me mad in a vicious, do-nothing, petty sort of way, and my mind goes only to sabotage and how to ruin the system. My brain instantly goes on flights of terrible fancy, revenge fantasies against people I don’t even know that turn into Tarantino films, soaked in blood and talky scenes about my petulant rage. I am never more bitter and self-indulgently full of myself and my distaste than when other people are condescending to me.

It is thus that most of the teacher training in Korea is set-up basically to raise my ire.

Teacher training, in and of itself, is actually a good thing. I like learning. I like it so much I want to make forcing other people to do it my profession. And finding new techniques to better crack metaphorical skulls open to let the knowledge in is a good use of my time. Unfortunately, the educational bureaucracy in Korea took a really good premise to start with and then allowed it to fester in red tape and, one assumes, top-down machinations and bizarre ideas of good teaching and pedagogy. Here is the probably recent thought process that got me enrolled in an online training course:

Starting premise: teacher training is good! Foreign teachers should do some training to improve their teaching.

Premise quality: high. Teacher training is good.

Next premise, likely created by someone down the hierarchical chain of bureaucracy: maybe something online? That way teachers can access it in their own time and train at their leisure! From the comfort of their own homes.

Premise quality: moderate-to-high. Hands-on is better, but at-your-own-pace is also nice. I enjoy the comfort of my own home.

Next premise: so, different training for elementary versus middle and high school, right?

Premise quality: high. Yep!

Next premise: but totally the same training for every single person, whether they’ve been here a week or a dozen years. They’re basically all as green and stupid.

Premise quality: extremely low. Again with the old fart complex, but: I’ve been here over a year. When I hear the words “Welcome to Korea!” uttered unironically before telling me the importance of patience, you are actually saying, “Michael, now is the time for you to check out.”

Next premise: also, we should only hire teachers from the Seoul area, who all seem to come from bizarre super-schools and only teach about sixty kids each, and see each student upwards of three times a week, somehow.

Premise quality: low. Where do these people teach? This doesn’t make sense.

Next premise: spontaneity is gross, so all the presenters should probably read stiffly off of a teleprompter.

Premise quality: wait, what?

Next premise: and also they should just stand in front of a green screen.

Premise quality: my head is hurting.

Next premise: do we have any demerol? These folks are a little too lively. What’s the rush? Slow it down. We’ve got hours to fill.

Premise quality: I can’t really feel my face anymore.

Next premise: too much material! Too many ideas! Simplify and say it again. Just repeat yourself. What are the models of coteaching again? Also, speak slower more.

Premise quality: is this blood? I think it’s blood. I didn’t know I could bleed from there.

Next premise: more skits! As awkward as possible! Everyone take an anal suppository before getting in front of the camera, please.

Premise quality: and now I can’t see colour for some reason.

Next premise: more flash! More narration! Every button they press should result in more windows and people talking at you!

Premise quality: wait wait, teeth don’t just fall out of your mouth.

Next premise: this final test makes too much sense. We should write it in Korean and then put it through google translate. Proofreading? What’s that?

Premise quality: but how could my internal organs just flee my body…

Final premise: also, the program should only work in Internet Explorer.

Premise quality: I taste purple.

I endure these sorts of incursions on my personal freedom and sense of self like the portions of eye-spread conditioning in A Clockwork Orange, while I dream of torturous revenge. With every passing moment, these wide-eyed, enormously betoothed Koreaphiles become the prison guards, my personal sadists, people who survive on only cruelty and the suffering of those to whom they ministrate. I come to hate the very sound of their voices, which I assume is part of the process. When they talk, all I hear is that loud, abrasive music cue Beatrix Kiddo hears when she spots one of the assassins in Kill Bill. I will have my revenge. One day. Some day. Soon.

Again, the trainings come from a place of good intentions and really poor ideas, namely that one training for everybody should be good enough, and that the ideas applicable to a small school with its own in-ground pool of liquid gold in Seoul are workable in the rest of Korea. If I was new, and had wheelbarrows full of money, and didn’t teach 700 children every week, this training would be just for me! But I’m not, so instead it is a personal affront and an infringement upon my human rights.

I have, of course, developed a robust system for slacking through these sorts of things. The last in-person training I was to endure (during which one speaker chided my friend and I after our presentation that we “didn’t do as [we] were told”), I slunk down into my chair, did my readings for a real teacher training course I had enrolled in, and spent the rest of the time text-bombing other people drooling in the audience. The last online training program was basically designed for my slacking: all you had to do was click on each page of every module, and you were recorded as completing the work. 15 hours compressed to 10 minutes? I’m a training genius.

This one tried to deke around such slacking mastery by requiring twenty minutes of logged time on each module. They thought we were defeated. That we would simply give up and just listen to the droning advice as the only way to finish. But if they wanted that, they probably shouldn’t have included a mute button on each video.

I started the training like I always do: with hope and suspicion. Once confirmed that it was just a very expensively produced waste of my time, I finished my intense, 20 hour training in about a day. Excelsior.

2 thoughts on “Training

  1. This would make me CRAZY! They really read from a teleprompter? Are these fellow educators who are conducting these sessions? Surely they don’t conduct their classes with equal amounts of boredom and madness.

    I taught college English for years, and I have always thought of teaching as equal parts content and performance. Surely these educational professionals have some obligation to also DEMONSTRATE how one manages to stand in front of an audience and maintain their attention.

    Good God, I feel for you!


    • I can’t know for sure. I think there was probably some measure of sanity at the very top, but as the idea for training filtered down through the various and many levels of Korean governmental bureaucracy, it was decided that a dull white human standing in front of a teleprompter and a green screen was the most effective way to keep our attention. Why film them speaking in a classroom when you can just digitally insert a hilariously fake-looking classroom behind them? Yay, we are spending this money!

      The people who acted as lecturers are theoretically very good (the credentials they list certainly seem impressive), but their topics, levelling of the material, and directions for how they should perform basically hamstrung them into being the most boring human beings alive.

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